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Maiden Harvest

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Whims of Nature

The next day Ben and his daughters awoke to a steady downpour. The rain fell heavily throughout the day, leaving the family with little to do on the farm until the rain stopped. Bennie performed household duties, enlisting the help of Martha Ann for simple chores. Ben and his other daughters went to the barn where he cleaned out the stables while Boots and Wanda slopped the hogs and fed hay to Tip and Rube, their two work horses. Bobbie brought down hay from the barn loft and milked Jersey.

       The steady rain continued. At first the thirsty, dry earth absorbed the deluge of rain, turning the hard, parched dirt wet and dark; but when the earth became saturated, the water began to create small rivulets that carried away the topsoil as it trickled downhill toward the lowlands.

      Ben and his daughters spent many hours of idle time confined to the house. During the daytime they often sat together on the porch, watching the rain; and during the nights they listened to the weather reports as the sounds from the radio competed with the steady roar of the rain on the tin roof of the house.

      The downpour was relentless. Ft. Loudoun Dam opened the floodgates to lower the water level of the swollen lake. Although one of the purposes of the dam is flood control, whenever the floodgates are opened the river below the dam is certain to rise to some extent. Since the Granger river-bottom-land was only slightly above the normal level of the river; the rising waters began to gradually creep onto the lowland. It finally covered the crops of corn, soybeans, and cane, completely submerging the land beside the two rivers.

      At last the rain stopped. The sun peeped through the blanket of clouds. The water covering the lowlands began to recede, leaving in its wake a sea of oozing slime that carried the black topsoil into the river.

      As the days passed, the reappearing sun only introduced the beginning of another drought. After several days the surface of the river-bottom land grew hard and crusty, becoming only a depleted field strewn with flattened cornstalks. In its chalky dryness, the top layer of soil shriveled until the surface cracked unevenly, giving the crust of the fields the random pattern of a jigsaw puzzle. The most cherished portion of the farm had been reduced to a crusty, barren wasteland.

      Most of the crops lay in ruin. By mid-summer Ben’s maiden harvest on his treasured new farm was almost a total disaster.

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